by Angela Denker
I’m writing this article about balance at 7 p.m. on a Friday. The dishes are washed, the laundry is done, and my two boys, age 7 and 4, are downstairs playing basketball in the basement with their dad.
I’m not home anymore, though. Every time I sat down to write there, I got distracted by more work to do.
Still dressed in leggings, a workout top and glasses in lieu of mascara, I change my location to a coffee shop. Finally, I can embrace anonymity and relative quiet. During a busy week just 12 days before Christmas, I’ve been available to children, church, family and side work.
A better woman than me would write this article about vocation and balance about how her morning routine of meditation, yoga and matcha tea helps her face the world with a sense of perfect balance and alignment envied by all.
As for me, I generally drag myself out of bed when I hear the pitter-patter of little boys’ feet, sprinting toward my door.
“MOM! I’M HUNGRY!”
Balance, in my past seven years as a pastor and a mother, has always seemed to me to be both elusive and unrealistic. After all, balance assumes that the items you have to balance can all fit together on a scale, in a manageable amount, that can be moved back and forth in perfect harmony.
Balance, it seems to me, assumes that you can always hold a portion of yourself in reserve–that you can divide your identity into equal and piecemeal parts. Right now, I am 65 percent pastor and 35 percent mother.
Right now, I am 99 percent pastor and 1 percent mother.
Somehow I have to fit writer and wife and woman and, let’s be honest, human being who needs to eat and sleep and be clothed in there somewhere, too.
Maybe what modern women need most today then is not balance at all, but rather permission to be occasionally unbalanced.
This New Year, the 20th anniversary of the New Millennium, in this article I want to give you that gift.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE UNBALANCED.
That’s exactly what Jesus asked of those who would follow him: to deny all else, even family, and take up your cross. To go to unfamiliar places, to face ridicule and persecution, for the sake of a mission of love, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation.
Green Bay Packers coaching great Vince Lombardi said it this way: “Success demands singleness of purpose,” which is fine if you’re a White American man in the 1950s, whose wife does your laundry and makes your bed and irons your shirts.
For modern women and moms, singleness of purpose looks different.
I contend that singleness of purpose for women today looks like a purposeful lack of balance.
It looks like laundry stacked high when you’re finishing up a big project at work. It looks like squatting on the floor next to your 4-year-old to build a puzzle when you’re on deadline for work. It looks like meeting up with friends even though you have projects to do at home. It looks like racing to the hospital, to be with church members and loved ones, in spite of everything and everyone else who needs you.
It looks like stepping outside into the bliss of crisp air and a walk alone.
It looks like phone calls to friends who you haven’t seen in years.
It looks like a cup of chai tea, a laptop, a Friday night in leggings on a December night 12 days before Christmas–and words that give permission to live.
Questions to ask yourself to create a perfect, balanced, unbalanced, purposeful life:
1. Put yourself on your list of priorities: What do you want and need as a human being?
2. Where is God calling you to put your energy? How does that differ from the pressures of the world and modern culture?
3. Who can you give permission to be unbalanced this year? How can you affirm others in a life that is purposeful, mission-centered, and occasionally unbalanced?
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me permission to let go of the illusion of a balanced life and instead lean into being present with the ones I love. This year, give me a sense of purpose in my vocations as a leader, a mother and a child of God. Guide me to accept and love myself, even when I am unbalanced. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.
The Rev. Angela Denker is a former sportswriter turned Lutheran pastor, writer, speaker–and full-time mom of two little boys–based in Minneapolis. Denker is a contributor to various publications, including The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, Red Letter Christians, and Living Lutheran. Her forthcoming book, Red State Christians: Meet the Voters who elected Donald Trump, was published by Fortress Press in 2019. Denker blogs at A Good Christian Woman … Not that One, where she tries to share Jesus’ love and refute the rumors about women, Christians, motherhood, and Jesus.